While I have always thought of collard greens as something eaten mainly by southerners, an article from the website “What’s Cooking America” notes that even the ancient Greeks and Romans enjoyed the leafy greens.
For the U.S., the tradition of cooking collard greens with pork—often using a ham hock to simmer in the broth—came from Africa as southern slaves honed the technique of cooking collards with the food scraps given to them for sustenance.
Collard greens, which are in the cabbage family, have a taste similar to kale or mustard greens. They have a deep, earthy flavor, and they’re especially good when you cook them down with plenty of pork fat. They’re not healthy that way, but they’re definitely delicious.
I recently decided to give collard greens a shot in my own kitchen and decide to use a recipe from the blog “Cooking with Pennies.” You can find the original post at https://www.spendwithpennies.com/collard-greens/. I added lots of extra garlic in my version.
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 8 slices bacon cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 small onion diced (I used yellow.)
- 1 pound collard greens
- 8 cloves garlic minced
- 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
- salt and pepper to taste
- Wash and drain the collard greens and remove as much of the stems as possible, leaving the leaves in large, two- to three-inch pieces.
- In a very large skillet with a lid or deep stock pot, melt the butter over medium heat and then fry the bacon until it is crispy.
- Add the diced onions to the bacon and saute for three to five minutes or until they’re starting to soften.
- Mix in the garlic and collard greens. Once everything is well combined, pour in the broth and place the lid on the pan.
- Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 40 minutes or until the greens are tender. Stir them every 10 minutes or so to keep anything from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Add salt and pepper, and serve immediately.
While this recipe didn’t follow the tradition of boiling a ham hock with the greens, the bacon added plenty of great flavor. I served these with some fresh cornbread, too, and sopping up the juices from the pan—often referred to as “pot-likker,” according to “What’s Cooking America,” was amazing.
And I learned you don’t have to be southern to enjoy collard greens. They have travelled all over the world throughout history, and while this particular recipe probably doesn’t count as adding vegetables to your meal, I still highly recommend them.
As Paula Deen once said, “I figure it’s almost like a balance. We’re eating these wonderful collard greens and turnip greens, which are so medicinally good for you, and OK, so what if it has a little ham hock in it?”
This piece first appeared in print on April 8, 2021.
Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas and sponsored by Main Street Co. & Kitchen Corner in Newton, Kan. Visit their website at shopmainstco.com.